Friday, May 29, 2015

The Old Normal

Okay, so I've been in a little bit of a grouchy funk the last couple weeks.  It's probably the normal end of year burnout but yet it seemed a little deeper. Last night I actually got eight hours sleep and this morning, without that fog, I was able to think things through. I know what is bothering me.

Yesterday I was moved to tears by a stranger who stopped traffic on Blackhawk to move a six inch turtle. I had swerved around him on the way to the high school for drum line practice. Also, thank God for those who are not late everywhere they go--who can actually stop and do the thing that was in other's minds to do. One small step for turtle-kind.

You know you are sleep deprived and a little sensitive when you get choked up because you can't find your way out of the high school parking lot. Why are there no pass through areas? I'm so embarrassed, again. It's like I'm dropping him off around the block.

This morning, I got the call--the middle school jazz ensemble concert at the zoo: rained out. Not that I wouldn't have trucked over there and paid the admission and troopered around the park looking for the pavilion to hear my son play keyboard bass on two numbers. . . but the truth is. . . I was actually okay with the rain. Recall that we had the Calvin Kotrba show at the band concert ten days ago--how many middle school lasts can we survive?

So here is the deal--I spent the better part of my fifth through eight grade days pre-mourning my sister going off to college. Our little family unit would never be the same. Never be the same. Never be the same. You can see how hopeless I am.

The rekindling of that haunting mantra. Only this time it's my son. I can't stand the thought of it. Never be the same. Only four more "normal" years.

But even normal is elusive. I'm losing control. The routine is dissolving. For 11 years we've been practicing from 6:10-7:10.  Next year we will have to leave at 7:10. We will require a new routine and the truth is I'm not happy about that.

I like the old normal. Never the same. . . 

Remember how your sister actually moved to Texas and lived with you. . . after college
Remember how even after Casey moved years later you ended up roommates. . . 
Remember how much fun it is to be with your mother now that she is not waiting at a barstool at the kitchen window watching you kiss your boyfriend goodnight when you should have been home two hours ago. . . 

It's hard. Okay I don't really need to go back to toddlerhood. Baby times were taxing too.
But this is a good place. I'm not ready to move on.

Recall that I have also spent many a graduation party hiding in the bathroom with tissues. For other people's kids. I guess it's in my DNA. Now I'm pre-mourning my own kids going off. . .

So--there is nothing really to do.  Hope that my child starts acting like a little shit so I'll be more ready for him to leave?

Beyond that I guess you just have to be there--even if you are blogging when you would have been at the zoo concert. I think this same thing happened last year.

So--here's another prayer. . .

Lord, help me to be present
to enjoy every stage of my children's lives
help me to spread the message about how fast time goes 
and how we shouldn't sweat the small stuff,
in piano, and in life. 
Help me to remember that there are good times ahead-they're just different, 
and while you are at it. . . help me find a really good book two video of my piano kids so I can turn in this dang teacher trainer application. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Water is Wide

Penultimate Trip to Landfill with Junk. . . 

Grandpa Loves a Fixer-upper

Okay. . . I couldn't help myself. 

My boat motor. . . 

What can I say? I'm helpless. 
Watching the Loons

Lucy is back. 

That's a keeper. 

All at once we became those people who have friends over at the lake. 

It's just a tap tap tap. 

Bill is now more careful about the whole gas thing.  

And at least for one moment in time. . . she runs. 

It's almost the Titanic. 

Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. They are almost as talkative as my children. 
I heard James Taylor's The Water is Wide this morning. I love this song. Here is a link: "The Water is Wide."  I'm not sure it goes with this blog entry--but you can listen while you read.

Thursday afternoon it occurred to me that I hadn't had a full day off--without performing or the kids performing or teaching or volunteer duties--since spring break.

When I get tired I get dark. Thursday even before the jug of blueberry kefir exploded all over my kitchen, up to the ceiling and running down the windows and all the way to the fridge and stove and my wool rug. . . even before that. . . I was hitting the wall. The darkest hour is always before dawn. The bell rang at 6:00 and as the last student left I was facing a four day weekend!

The chill swept over me almost immediately. By 9:00 p.m. my temp was 101.5. Nothing to do but crawl in bed. Who will pack for the cabin weekend? Who will figure out the food? Who will water the plants and change the cat litter and God knows what all else is on our lists.

Had I not been hit by this Mack truck. . . I would have assuredly stayed up past midnight packing and running about in a flurry of list checking off-ness. It was as if. . . my body said. . . the only way we are gonna get her to bed is to push the fever button. And it worked.

I woke up nine hours later after and as I laid in bed I asked that question we ask. . . how am I? I realized I was actually at about 70%. That will do. I can work the list at 70%.

I don't write this to prove how crazy our life is. Everyone's lives are crazy now and then. But why does it take a fever. . . or worst case scenario something worse or a sick loved one to slow us down?

Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy. It might also read--remember the sabbath to keep YOU WHOLE.

Resting is God's commandment and we suffer when we don't obey it. Guilty as charged. So--dear readers--you must rest and take care of yourself. My friend calls it "radical self care." My sister reminded me of a devotion which ends with "I must do what's mine to do." Again and again we--well many of us--get so swept up it takes a Mack truck mystery fever to shut us down.

What does it actually mean to rest? I'm not exactly sure.

So--I planted flowers at the cabin. That was restful. And Grandpa and Calvin putzed with the antique boat motor. And Bill got into his Bill zone doing his Bill things around the cabin and Mary fed the duck and wondered around singing and reading. Calvin serenaded us with hymns on the 1906 Mason and Hamlin at sunset.

And friends came over--all at once we became people who have friends who stop by. Friends never stop by at home. Why does it take driving two and half hours to have friends stop by? And we cooked and the kids played and we sat around the fire with Bill's folks and the friends brought hamburgers and marshmallows and we burnt most of the marshmallows and ate a few too. We sang songs with words we can't remember and stayed outside by the fire until the sprinkling turned to drizzle.

Monday morning at the kitchen table in the rain, l got dark again putting the dates on the Fall calendar--it's like a coloring book--and we fill it with crayons until we run out of white.

This is it isn't it? The ebb and flow. The wide water to get across. Work hard. Play hard. Rest hard. How to remember that the boat is on the way when you are almost drowning.

Six more days till the summer schedule. Teachers--hang in there. Single moms--hang in there. We are so close to fine. If you have to. . . pretend you have a 101.5 fever and go to bed. Not that I did this. I have the thermometer to prove it. Things always look better in the morning. Always.

I've been on a prayer kick. . . here is a prayer:

God of all time... 
Help me to remember my sabbath
To praise you,
but also to sustain me.
When I feel overwhelmed,
help me to remember the boat is almost here,
help us face each moment with gratitude,
for the work, for the play, and for the rest.
Be with the teachers and the homeschool teachers 
and the moms and everyone who uses too much crayon 
on their calendars. 
Help us secure our own oxygen masks again and again. 
Teach us what radical self care means. 
Without the fever part. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What Might Have Been

A panic wells up inside me and once again it is the calendar. When you thought things couldn't get any more filled up you begin your two year term as SAM president and your little toddler graduates middle school and trots off to high school.

Putting the dates on the Fall calendar for marching band and confirmation and the SAM workshop meetings might push me over into the second glass of cab. The spark of joy seems a little volatile, like it might accidentally catch fire and burn the house down.

This morning was the 8th Grade Presidential Academic Honors Breakfast. . . for those students who received a 3.5 or hight GPA throughout all of middle school. Calvin got to play the 20 minute prelude on the piano as the folks were gathering. Ten kids were brought up on stage for a second honor, that of the 4.0 GPA. There were nine girls and Max.

Filing into the breakfast Oliver jabs Calvin on the arm and says--what did you get the A- in?
P.E. in six grade.
What about you Oliver?

So--the running of the mile and the drawing of a rabbit kept the boys off the platform. C'est la vie. They laughed it off.

This morning's breakfast was for pretty much everyone who didn't flunk. Nonetheless, thank you O'bama for your signature on the dotted line of academia.

The speaker, an Eagan High senior, caught me off guard and choked me up to that embarrassing level. She was so perky and happy and all about the joy of middle school (yeah, right) and then told a story about how she was failing math and Mr. Oase (Calvin's homeroom teacher and math teacher) ate lunch with her every day for a month until she got caught up.

Pretend to check a text while you search frantically for the kleenex.

Her mom added to me in the hall outside that that math month also coincided with the death of her husband, the girls' dad.

Holy cow. Search trench coat pocket for additional kleenex.

Then the perky girl reminded us that two of their classmates who should have been there, weren't, and how the class of 2019 suffered losses inappropriate for their age. Give up on kleenex, use trench coat sleeve.

I thought about Mr. Oase and Mr. Herem and Patricia Bauer and the whole host of heavenly angels who escorted my son through the awkward and potentially dismembering years of middle school. If only for one P.E. teacher we would have had nary a scrape.

As Calvin looked around the cafeteria for his buddies a cute girl hung out a little too long collecting the orange juice at our table and I thought about what might have been. How middle school might have gone. What social horrors we skirted.

Last week I put the ballet bun in Mary's hair in the middle school bathroom between the 7th and 8th grade band concerts. This morning I rushed home and did the "two braided pig tales" required for optimum self confidence in the 4th grade talent show. I can do this in 78.4 seconds if the hair is already brushed.

I restocked the purse kleenex. These kids are FRAGILE. . .

But what I'm really trying to say is about the teachers. They are more than saints. They take these gangly kids trying to look cool but the pants are so very short and pretend they actually care about what they are motor mouthing about for 20 minutes after school and make them feel like they are loved and belong and by virtue of those actions, whether genuine or feigned the kid actually is loved and belongs and finds his way and is caught smiling profusely at the end of year breakfast.

Lord, help me to listen to every child as these teachers have listened to my child and see the best as they have seen the best. And to build up every child because you just never know what might have been if they hadn't had you. And Lord, if the p.e. grade is ever borderline, help me to round it up.  

Friday, May 15, 2015

Out of Gas

We like all the suburban families are deep into the lovely month of May. Everyone is putting their punctuation mark on the year. Every tap dance every band concert every piano recital every organization has its function and luncheon.

This morning my husband with an ivy league MBA ran his car out of gas a block from school. Yep.  That's where we're at. Pushing our luck. Pushing our cars. Lucky for him one of the piano dads ran into him and gave him a ride in the rain back to his car. I have to tell you, this is not the first time this has happened.

After the band concert last night and 23.2 ounces of Cherry Berry Mary woke up this morning with a soar throat. Of course she did.

Mary honey--I think you are fine--have the school call me if you throw up or have a fever over 101.5.
I'll be typing Sunday's recital programs and shopping for Saturday's Gala hoopla and making lesson plans for tonight's groups but I'll be happy to send a taxi to pick you up from school and have them take you to urgent care for the strep test.

Just kidding.

It could very well be that taking care of the people we love in the midst of our crazy times is the hardest hardest thing to do. We just want to get our own stuff done.

So here is a little end of the year wackies prayer:

Lord, help me keep my head on straight in the midst of morning noon and night activities of the next two weeks. Help me remember that this too shall pass and summer will be here and I'll drink coffee while I weed and then at a certain hour I will switch to wine and continue the weeding. Help me put remember to put the people I love first and take care of them and not snap at them and pray for them.  Help me not to worry about sickness and health but to put it all in your hands. Let all these activities bless my children and my piano kids--and bring out the best and the celebration in all of us--as they are meant to be--and to not just check them off the list as we go. Help me to be in the moment and not just behind the video camera. And help us fill our tanks with gas. The real gas--the love from you!


Friday, May 1, 2015

Perfect Grass Guy

A Bleeding Heart Grows Out of a Rock--volunteer

Pennsylvania Sedge. This is the cutest thing I've ever seen. 

He will grow up to eat entire hosta plants. I love him anyway. 

Impulse Purchase at Byerlys.  

A plant you once trusted, wild ginger, starts to make herself invasive. Hmmmm. Better than weeds. 
Down the street there is a man with a postage stamp yard--one small rectangle--where he keeps his grass perfect. He has torn it up and reseeded eleven times in the last three years. I guess the dandelions keep coming back. I don't get it, and the boulder in the middle does not inspire me. I shouldn't judge, maybe there is virtue in keeping something small and PERFECT.  Except that I'm sure it takes a boat load of chemicals to do it. . .

To keep up with him I am going to do better with the weeds in my yard and maybe then the seeds won't blow down the street and make him have to round up the whole thing and start over. Again.

However, this brings me to the age old question. Should I keep my life small and perfect or live large with some moderate flailing?  Actually it's probably too late for that question.

Posted at the yoga studio: How you do anything is how you do everything. I've wasted many a pose wondering how I feel about that saying.

New this year to the spring garden is the experience of the "spark of joy" from the the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Tidying. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying and Decluttering.  Certainly we must apply these happy principles to the garden as well as the home.  (Not that I have succeeded inside. . . but I made good progress and it kept me happy all winter.)

My hours in the garden often amount to triage in the emergency room--stuff I've got to take care of or somebody's going to die. Kidney stones. Heart attacks. Like transplants needing water or an invasion of Japanese beetles--you got to do it today. . .

I long for the day when everything is settled and I can just meander around and pluck a few blossoms and get that one remaining dandelion before it blows down the street and causes a town council meeting.

Is this true? Is that what I really want? Maybe if it was all done I'd be ready for a new garden. Or maybe by then I'll be so old I'll peacefully drift away to that garden in the sky.

In the spirit of the spark of joy, instead of a perpetual "do-to" list in the garden this summer--I'm going to remember that it is really a "want to do" list. This is a hobby. That I love. Obsessively. Remember.

Maybe the answer to the age old question is whatever you do it mindfully. I could mindfully tend my ten rose bushes and 4 x 8 foot perennial garden like I did at the town-house years ago, and pick off every bug and pull every weed and give each plant the exact recipe of fertilizer that it needs. Or I can mindfully triage 3/4 of an acre and make sure the actual plants that I love the most die another day.

So, perfect grass guy, good luck this year. I hope it works for you and as you sit on the tailgate of your pickup truck watching your perfect grass grow I hope it makes you happy. I'm serious.

I'll keep chasing the deer off and spraying repellent at 11:00 p.m. because I saw that look in their eyes standing so peacefully on the hill. . .

I made my decision--I'm living large. How I garden does not have to be a reflection of how I play the piano or teach or parent or do yoga. Out there I can mindfully flail. Even a weedy, deer threatened, (not going to tell you why there aren't any rabbits this year), overgrown in some areas and under-grown in other garden--still gives me a spark of joy.